A pilgrimage from Indiana to Kansas
By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian

Sept. 27 Friday - We visited Huntsville Museum. Margaret Block opened it early for us and then led us drive to her farm where our caravan had camped in 1988, believed to be the 1838 encampment site.

Entering Salisbury we drove by the Boy Scout cabin where the Trail of Death marker was erected in 1998. Chariton County Museum, Salisbury, has military uniforms from every U.S. war. Naturally we took photos of our veterans, including Bob Pearl, World War II, and Korea veterans, Jerry Pearl, Wayne McNary and Bill Willard. Laura Ingalls Wilder lived there for a while as a child but she did not include it in her Little House books. We took a group photo in front of the mural on the outside wall of the museum.

Keytesville, Missouri, has a boulder with plaque for Trail of Death in the General Sterling Price Park. He was a Confederate officer whose name was given to the cat in the John Wayne movie, “True Grit.”

The James Pecan Farm buildings are completely gone now. We had stopped there as a caravan in 1988 and 1993.

Brunswick and DeWitt, Missouri, erected Potawatomi Trail of Death Regional Historic Trail highway signs by putting them back to back so they can be read from both directions. At Brunswick Don Riddle met us for the dedication ceremony of the new signs. We saw Lewis and Clark Trail signs as it is on the Missouri River. A local man had caught a 40 pound catfish that morning and was skinning it while we were there. The fish had a huge mouth. We dedicated the new Potawatomi Trail of Death signs on Brunswick’s main street.

DeWitt is a teeny tiny town with only 124 inhabitants, and they laughingly say that includes the cats and dogs. Children are taken to Brunswick to school, which has about 200 in K-12. A school bus brought the fourth, fifth and sixth graders to meet and eat with the Trail of Death caravan at the DeWitt community center. George Godfrey, Sister Virginia Pearl, Ralph Bazhaw and Theresa McNary told the school kids stories and history. A full meal was served to all, provided by Anita Brown, Don Riddle, Bill Jackson, and ladies of the community. Anita has been working with the caravan since 1998. She promised to get a Trail of Death highway sign erected at Keytesville soon.

We stopped to briefly visit Carrollton museum. It is a large museum with many rooms and a Trail of Death historical marker out front. Several people were there to meet us. Lillie Lou Audsley is the head of this museum.

We could not stop to see the Trail of Death marker at Richmond High School because of the homecoming parade. We crossed the Missouri River at Lexington and took photos of the Madonna of the Trail with the Trail of Death marker beside it. We drove slowly by the Trail of Death markers at Wellington and Napoleon.

Fire Creek Wetlands near Buckner is a beautiful place to visit but is behind a government fence so can be seen only during open hours. Gene Pittman, Scoutmaster for 42 years who had Trail of Death markers erected in 2000, met us there and said he would like to get a boulder and plaque instead of a sign. We walked onto the deck over the water, then sat in the pavilion to drink bottled water and hear Pittman tell about the local history.

At Little Blue River Nature Preserve (Bicycle Park) near Lake City, the Trail of Death historical marker is reached by walking over a wooden bridge and down a path. Some of us were too tired to walk there and rested in our cars, after using the pit toilet.

Independence’s Pioneer Spring Park has a log cabin, Trail of Death marker and a bricked dance circle, as well as the spring which is reached by climbing down steps to the water. Roy Slavin, Citizen Potawatomi rep, met us there with his wife Julie. So did Amy Guerich of the Pearl family.

After checking into Quality Inn and Courts, we gathered to eat at Court House Exchange restaurant. It was a crowed noisy place, being Friday night. There were 23 of us at 3 tables.

Huntsville museum exhibited Trail of Death books and newspapers in front window. Seen through the window are Bob Pearl, Bill Willard and Ginger Pearl (Photo; Shirley Willard)

Salisbury museum has uniforms on manikins for all U.S. wars which interested the men very much. Wayne McNary and David Begg from the Trail of Death caravan look at uniforms. (Photo: Shirley Willard)

At Brunswick Don Riddle tells about Lewis and Clark Trail that is on same road as Trail of Death. From left is Ginger Pearl, Chris Osborn and Jerry Pearl. (Photo: Shirley Willard)

Dedication of new Potawatomi Trail of Death historic highway sign in Brunswick shows Jeannie and Carmelita Wamego, George Godfrey lifting tobacco to the four sacred directions, Jon Bursaw, Bob Pearl behind Rich Meyers, Ralph Bazhaw. The group turned to face each direction as George led the blessing. (Photo: Shirley Willard)

DeWitt signs were erected back to back. George Godfrey leads the school children, assisted by cousin Ralph Bazhaw. (Photo: Shirley Willard)

Fire Creek Wetlands has a wooden observation deck. Ralph Bazhaw, Shirley Willard and Ginger Pearl viewed the water and swamp. (Photo: Bill Willard)

Meeting in Fire Creek Wetlands pavilion to share history. Who is the person with back to camera? At rear from left: Ginger Pearl, Janet Pearl, George Godfrey, Cathy Wamego, Jeannie Wamego Van Veen reading Trail of Death diary, Jon Bursaw, David Begg, Rich Meyers, Wayne McNary, Jim Bauman. (Photo: Shirley Willard)

Pioneer Spring in Independence, Missouri, now has a dug-out entrance so people can go down to the spring. From left: Bob Pearl, Bill Willard tasting the water, Jerry Pearl and Jeannie Wamego Van Veen facing Jo Hoogstraten, Carmelita and grandson Chris Osborn. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten)

Amy Guerich, granddaughter of Marg Pearl Guerich and niece to Sister Ginger, Bob and Jerry Pearl, speaks at the Trail of Death historical marker in Independence's Pioneer Spring Park. This marker was sponsored by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Shawnee, Oklahoma. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten)
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This page updated Nov 19, 2013.